As a responsible dog parent, you would like to maintain a healthy line of communication with your bundle of joy. The only glitch here is that humans don’t speak dog language and vice versa. But that does not mean you cannot teach your pet to respond to you or let you know when he wants to be let out. Teaching your pet a mode of communication, which means understanding your commands and informing you when a need arises, is one of the most important and often rewarding things you can do.
We have broken down the entire process into simple, easy-to-follow steps below. All you need is a little patience, an efficient reward system, and a lot of consistency.
Understand Their Bark Before You Train Them to Regulate It
Barking is dogs’ general expression to communicate with their folk and us. Before you try to regulate it, it is important to understand what it means. It is not the only mode of communication dogs use. They tend to growl, shift their body language, and whine.
According to the American Kennel Club, dogs have different barks for their different moods and feelings. They use it to show their joy, seek attention, express their anxiousness, or ask for company. Even if you have never had a dog before, you will have a basic understanding of what they are trying to express. Generally speaking, you may be able to differentiate a distress call from a show of excitement or an attempt to welcome someone familiar.
Therefore, it is important to lend your dog an understanding ear. Pay attention to the sounds you hear, look at their body language, and try to make sense of their various gestures. If you feel that his barks are wails showing signs of fear or pain, then he needs professional help. Seek assistance from a registered vet or a behaviorist to address the problem. Signs like a shift in pitch and gaps in barks can also help you understand what they want to tell you.
Low-pitched bark means serious business, like someone attempting to break in. On the contrary, a high-pitched bark might show excitement, such as when the pups are having a good time playing with the family. Listen to the gaps as well; a dog engaged in a fight might bark in quick succession, with shorter gaps in between. Whereas a string of barks can show that a dog has been putting effort for quite some time, such as when trying to ward off intruders. Lonely dogs make wailing sounds that drag on and are followed by long silences. As you spend some time with your dog, you will be able to distinctively recognize his voice, and it will get easier to understand what he tries to communicate. Once you do that, you can proceed to teach him about “speaking.”
How to Teach Your Dog to Speak?
To teach your dog to bark on command or when needed, you need three things: his favorite treats, command prompt, and practice. Read along to find out how you can use each of these to your benefit.
1. Get Them to Bark
Most dogs naturally bark. Non-stop barking is quite a nuisance for so many dog parents and even affects your neighbors. Sometimes, as it would appear, dogs bark at nothing. It is, therefore, super important to regulate their behavior. Start by getting them excited, so they can start barking. For the more aggressive dogs, it can be quite easy. Just ask someone at home or a friend to ring the doorbell for you or knock at the door.
When they bark, acknowledge them by looking at the source, for example, looking out of the window or checking at the door. Appreciate them. For the more docile types, you will have to engage with them to trigger barking in them. Play a game of fetch or take your buddy out for a little running in the backyard.
2. Use Reward as a Positive Reinforcement
Here comes the disciplining part. Now that the dog knows you want him to bark, grab his favorite treat and hold it out in front of them, but don’t give it to them. Recreate the prompt; when they do bark, hand out the reward.
Handle this stage with care; you don’t want them to think they will get a treat every time they bark. Gradually start pacing out the treats. Create the prompt, let them bark, and follow it up with rewarding longer silences after each bark.
3. Use Signal/Command to Tell Them When to Bark
Now that the little guy knows that barking brings treats, mark the behavior with a cue word. You can use the word “speak” to tell them to bark. A good way to give a command would be to use a hand gesture while you say the command. A common hand gesture used to teach dogs to speak is to curl your fingers to touch your thumb, your palm facing the dog, then open and close them to imitate the movement of lips when someone speaks. Use a little bit of practice to get this step right. Make sure to say the command in a clear, audible, and consistent tone.
Try to get them to bark on cue, including your hand gesture. Offer their favorite chew, a piece of meat, or some other treat they are particularly fond of, every time they bark on cue. But hand out the treat only when the barking stops. Check out this cool training treat below that you can easily source from Chewy. Keep practicing with the cue, but pace out the rewards as you progress.
4. Practice in Different Locations
It is wise to start training inside your home where there are fewer distractions. But once you get them to speak, take the training outdoors. You want your dog to be able to follow your cue in locations with all kinds of distractions. It is better to keep changing the location at the earlier stages of training.
You can try to change locations when you have practiced barking on the prompt with your dog at home. It will help them adapt more easily. You will have to practice the command with a steady tone, as consistent tones are easier to recognize and follow.
5. Teach Quiet Time
Teaching your best buddy to be quiet is just as important as teaching him to bark. Just like when you were teaching him to speak, start with a prompt. Make him bark. When they start barking, ask them to be quiet. Here again, hand gestures can help tell them that you want them to be quiet.
When they do go quiet, offer them a treat. You will have to practice a little until your dog registers that it is the quiet time that is getting rewarded. And just as when you were teaching them to bark, you need to pace out the treats as your training progresses.
6. Phase Out Your Positive Reinforcements
It does no good to keep treating your dog all the time. Not only is it bad for their health, but they will also grow disinterested in training. In the initial stages, you have to hand out a treat or give them a toy to play with when they correctly perform their expected task. Once the pet learns to do it correctly, let it practice barking or going quite a few times before handing out the reward. As you progress from this stage, replace the physical reward with praise for their behavior or a little playtime.
Tips for Teaching Your Dog to Speak
- Use your judgment whether to start training with bark or quiet. It is one of the questions that will bug you when you’re trying to figure out how to teach a dog to speak. It depends on the type of dog, whether he is an aggressive type or barely barks. You will have to work with your pup and use your better judgment to decide.
- Be patient. Yelling won’t help when you are teaching your dog. It will confuse the little guy, and he might take it for your excitement and join in on the yelling. It is important to use a calm tone and demeanor when teaching your dog.
- Use clicker training. Although not a necessity, clickers can be helpful to mark the behavior you are trying to teach. For instance, when you are teaching your dog to speak and create a prompt for them, click it when they do bark. And press the click when you give the command next time. Clickers generate a standard sound making it easy for the dog to recognize what is expected of them.
- Switch your dog treats to keep them interesting. Using the same treats over and over might make the training sessions dull. Keep them guessing to make the process more interesting and exciting.
- Keep practice time short. Perseverance is important, but so is maintaining the dog’s attention. Also, your neighbors may not appreciate the barking sound of your dog as much as you do.
Dogs are delightful, intelligent beings. Training your dog to understand your commands to speak or stop doing something is helpful in many ways. Besides helping regulate their barking, it is also a great bonding activity. When you put in the effort to understand their sounds and attempt to understand how they learn best, you tend to know their personality better. By practicing patience and perseverance, you will get your desired results in no time.